In Times of Change, Employee Communication Is Vital to Successful Organizations

Article excerpt

In the most basic definition, an employee is a person who works for another in return for wages or a salary.

More precisely, in legal terms, an employee is a person hired to provide services to a company on a regular basis in exchange for compensation, and who does not provide these services as part of an independent business.

In reality, employees are the frontline troops who provide products and services that define corporations, organizations and government entities. They are the lifeblood that allows businesses to grow, and the powerful intellectual capital that gets traded alongside company stock shares in the marketplace. When employees leave the office at the end of the day, they act as their corporations' and organizations' ambassadors in the community.

"They are the most precious assets of any organization," according to Ursula Stroh, senior lecturer at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. "The attitudes and loyalty of employees are directly influenced by their participation in communication efforts, and this has a direct influence on how they treat customers and clients, which in turn leads to growth of the bottom line."

That's why communicating with employees during times of change--and recognizing them as primary stakeholders--is critical to an organization's success and survival. Regardless of the model you choose as a template for managing change--from Johnson's "Who Moved My Cheese?" to a classic like Deming's "Total Quality Management"--communication with principal stakeholders ranks high in the hierarchy of factors that predict success. Communication is second only to the main stakeholders' participation in the process.

SIMPLE TRUTHS

Change management and communicating change initiatives in organizations are a complex area of study. But some fundamentals are universal:

* No one really likes to change. That is, unless you are part of the group that has championed the change in the first place. The buy-in of important stakeholders is critical. Therefore, communicating the need for the change in terms that show a direct connection to stakeholders is necessary.

* No one likes to be changed. The most successful changes come from an internally driven force, whether they arise from one person or a group. Likewise, if a person or a group doesn't embrace change as necessary, then it won't be lasting. Giving stakeholders a role in making change happen encourages that internal force. Involvement happens by inviting participation through a variety of formal and informal communication events within the organization.

* Making a solid case for the change is critical for the change to have a lasting effect. Cynical stakeholders who have seen change initiatives fail in the past are likely to avoid risks associated with change. They become roadblocks when new change initiatives are broached. Communicating meaningful rationales and presenting active plans that include all constituents are the most effective means of creating allies of those who tend to shrug off change.

* The source of information about the change must be credible. Organizations and companies are communities of people with formal and informal networks for sharing intelligence. Within these communities are subgroups of people who are respected as knowledgeable about the ways of the organization. Developing coalitions of support and using these formal and informal networks for communicating change behaviors can lead to the acceptance of change.

IABC RESEARCH FOUNDATION CONTRIBUTIONS Two IABC Research Foundation studies reinforce the value of communicating effectively with employees. One report provides broad foundational support for employee communication during times of change, and the second offers insight into a specific type of change where employee communication is paramount.

* The Impact of Change Communication Management on Relationships With Employees. …